TERRE HAUTE —
Change came to the Indiana State football program in November when Trent Miles left the Sycamores to take over at Georgia State. In December, Mike Sanford was hired to replace him.
Change has been in the air for several months, but today is when the change really comes home to roost for the Sycamores.
ISU begins spring football practice at 3:30 p.m. today at Memorial Stadium. Spring ball ends with the Spring Game on April 20.
While the planning and recruiting for the Sanford era will continue, this will be the first time for fans to see his plan in action.
And they can expect to see several differences from the Miles era, most notably, in how Sanford conducts practice.
Miles’ practices tended to be minimal on contact. Full-on tackling and hitting were rare. Sanford won’t have full-contact in every practice, but he does plan to introduce it in the spring and plans to have more when fall practices begin.
“During spring, we’ll have some periods where we’re not hitting and we’ll have periods where we’re very physical. Where we’re tackling and hitting. We will be physical at times,” Sanford said.
Sanford intends to have padded, physical practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the season, if the team responds well to it.
The structure of Sanford’s practices will be different as well. Sanford intends to split practice into 24 five-minute sessions. Miles’ sessions tended to be a tad longer. Sanford’s sessions will be apportioned between team, individual and unit work, and they figure to be intense.
It’ll be a different world for the returning Sycamores. Sanford will implement new terminology for the offense, defense and special teams.
“The first thing we have to get ingrained is the basics. We’ve got to learn the system. There’s going to be new systems for offense, defense and the kicking game. It’ll be a new language. I think that’s probably the first thing we need to get done,” Sanford said.
ISU has position battles in store. Most notable will be at several linebacker spots. ISU lost most of its starting linebacking corps — a unit that included All-MVC players Aaron Archie and Jacolby Washington.
“The big one on defense is the linebacking positions. There’s going to be a lot of competition. We have to find another corner,” said Sanford, who turned his attention to the offense.
“I think the wide receiver position is wide-open. We’re looking to see about who’s going to be our tight end. I think we have some offensive line positions open and we need to see who’s going to be our guys,” Sanford added.
Mostly, though, Sanford wants to see who’s going to emerge as the team leader after 17 seniors departed from the 2012 team. Sanford has stated from the start that he wants to build on Miles’ success and take ISU to the FCS playoffs and Missouri Valley Football Conference title contention.
“I think a big theme for this team is we have to take the next step and that is to go playoffs. We have to find out who our leaders are and they have to learn how to lead,” Sanford said. “We have good senior leaders, but they need to get everyone to be all-in. I think we have some guys who are, I think we have some guys on the fence.”
Per usual with spring practice, several newcomers won’t arrive until fall. Sanford expects linebacker T.J. Tuuu and wide receiver Miguel Johns to be on hand, but wasn’t certain what other newcomers might join them.
One thing is certain … Sanford is excited to get on the field with his new team.
“We’re really excited to get going. All of the stuff up to now has been important, but these 15 days of spring are critical. We want to find out who we’re going to be,” Sanford said.
ISU Spring Practice
All practices at Memorial Stadium are open to public [no photography allowed] and begin at 3:30 p.m. unless noted.
• Practices — March 19, March 21, March 22, March 26, March 28, March 29, April 2, April 4
• Scrimmage — April 5
• Practices — April 9, April 11
• Scrimmage — April 12
• Practices — April 16, April 18
• Spring Game — April 20, 3 p.m.